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I got a "Windows Security Alert" in Windows 7. This is because a program (Spotify) on my computer wants to use the Internet connection. But I'm not sure what these options mean.

Windows Firewall has blocked some features of Spotify on all public and private networks.

I have these two options, and I can check one or both of them.

Allow Spotify to communicate on these networks:

Private networks, such as my home or work network

Public networks, such as those in airports and coffee shops (not recommended because these networks often have little or no security)

a

The first one is already checked by default. The second one is optional. What happens if I check that second option? And what do they mean by "to communicate on these networks"? The computer is a desktop and it's connected to my home network, with routers, switches and all that.

I'm confused by all this. What is it I'm deciding on here? It's not like I can change the network I'm connected to if it's a desktop computer. I will only use it at one location. So does that mean the second options is irrelevant then? Or are they actually asking how far reaching (so to speak) the communication will be, i.e. allow it to communicate within the local home network, but block communication with the outside world (i.e. WAN)? For Spotify to work it needs to communicate with the outside world, i.e. the Internet, so does that mean I have to allow it to communicate with "public networks"?

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  • You're right you're not changing the network, just treating it differently. Basically, private network means all those on your local network you are things you trust (such as a NAS drive, your brothers laptop, your sisters tablet etc). Those on a public network (eg, if you connected via WiFi in a cafe) means your machine may be exposed to others (strangers) on the same wifi and therefore possibly vulnerable. I have been in a pub using an open WiFi before, and I was able to see other machines on the same network and was surprised I could connect to their Users directory without any concerns – Dave Jan 21 '14 at 14:21
  • If they had chosen Public (because they're on the public network) then the computer makes the machine more safe and locks it down a little more. – Dave Jan 21 '14 at 14:23
  • @Dave That was the default on my Windows 10, and makes sense as the first option also appears to allow internet access to Spotify, so i'm puzzled as to why it's still labeled "not recommended". Maybe the second option listens on both public and private networks? – Cees Timmerman Dec 15 '17 at 14:14
  • I have not seen what this dialog box looks like on Windows 10 yet, whether or not the wording is the same and so on. But the second option in my screenshot is to allow the app to communicate on networks that have been profiled as public, in addition to allowing it to communicate on networks that have been profiled as private. This is more relevant for a mobile laptop computer, than for a stationary desktop computer, since with the laptop you will encounter several different networks as you move to different places. – Samir Dec 17 '17 at 13:42
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A chat with Microsoft support didn't clear up my confusion, so after further searching i found the "Windows Defender Firewall with advanced security on Local computer" settings, which under the Check, Firewall branch shows that only selecting the private network option, leads to only blocking incoming connections from the public network (via UDP and TCP):

Allow only private network access to block incoming UDP and TCP from the public

So if you were running a:

  • Honeypot? Only check the public box.
  • Private media server? Only check the private box.
  • Public (WAN) media server you also want to access on your LAN? Check to allow both networks access to it.
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When used on a laptop Windows 7 is capable of recognizing and using multiple networks as you roam from network to network. This is just a warning wanting to know if you want this application to use unsecured networks when you are mobile.

Since you are not mobile (using a desktop at airports or coffee shops), simply choose the first option. By choosing this option, it only lets Spotify use the private networks you designate. It's not anything to be concerned about.

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    I get the same warning on my desktop, and don't see a difference in functionality whether i choose the first or second option. – Cees Timmerman Dec 15 '17 at 14:17
  • Besides this being an old answer, if you are running Windows 10, it may not be the same as this question/answer. Your comment is rather vague, so I am not sure what point you are trying to make. – CharlieRB Dec 15 '17 at 21:26
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    "When used on a laptop" is redundant, and your answer rather vague and misleading as either option allows outgoing access to public networks. – Cees Timmerman Dec 16 '17 at 16:45
  • It sounds like you have a different question from what was originally asked here. Rather than argue about an answer from years ago, to someone else's question about Windows 7, why not just ask your own question? – CharlieRB Dec 16 '17 at 21:29
  • I had the same question as OP, who also did not accept your answer, so I've supplied my own that does answer the question. – Cees Timmerman Dec 16 '17 at 21:47
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TL;DR - This window is asking whether you want to allow this app to open ports, and what network types it's allowed to open ports on.

For those who like reading long-winded explanations:

The application (Spotify) wants to open a port on the firewall. When opening a port, other devices on the network you're connected to can communicate with your computer through it. In Spotify's case, that's port 4070, and is used for Spotify Connect (the ability to control/play your playlist on other devices on your network.)

Whenever you connect to a Wi-Fi or hard-line network, Windows will prompt you the first time it connects to ask whether it's a private or public network. Networks at work or home are generally considered private, while coffee shops/airports/etc. are considered public. If you dismiss the prompt without selecting anything, it defaults to assuming the network is public.

What the prompt above is asking is whether you want to allow Spotify to make it's ports available on your private networks (home/work), and optionally accessible to anyone when connected to public networks (i.e. coffee shop/airport/etc.) No matter what options are chosen here, apps can still make any outbound requests they want (i.e. to the Internet.)

The most secure option is to click "Cancel". This blocks the app from being able to open any ports on your computer, regardless of what type of network it's on. Unfortunately, this can break some apps that depend on open ports, or reduce their functionality.

For most users, leaving the default of "Private Networks" for apps you trust is fine, and clicking "Cancel" for apps you don't recognize. Rarely do you ever want to check "Public Networks", unless you like giving the entire airport a chance to Rick Roll you on Spotify, or worse, exposing ports to hackers who are also connected to the same public network.

Worst case, if you make a mistake, you can open "Windows Defender Firewall with Advanced Security" on Windows 7 and above, find the name of the app in the Inbound and Outbound rules lists, and change it to allow/deny access. Or, you can click "Restore Default Policy" in this same window, and it'll restore the firewall to it's default settings (and you'll get the above dialog again for all apps that open ports.)

If you need to change network types between public/private, on Windows 7, you can change it in the Network and Sharing Center. For Windows 10:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4043043/windows-10-make-network-public-private

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